I always make New Year’s resolutions, like most everyone else, I expect. Some I may even manage to adhere to throughout the coming year. And, if we are being honest, other resolutions will fall by the wayside (again, like most everyone else). For the most part this resolution making – a list of good intentions – is a knee-jerk reaction as the old year winds down.
Here are a few of my resolutions for my New Year: travel more (will be proactive and make sure this will happen), reduce the clutter of our lives (difficult when you are one of life’s little hoarders), finish things I’ve started (a perpetual resolution, so an uncertain outcome), write more – other than blog posts (possibly, but we all know the muse is fickle at times). In fact, I’ve resolved to post less on the blog this year, but still keep to a regular schedule. That, I hope will leave time for writing up all those unfinished research projects cluttering my desk – thus fulfilling several resolutions at once! Other resolutions are general life-style choices like health, exercise, diet…. You know, the usual.
However, there are a few specific ones related to the kitchen and/or blog.
Resolution: continue to make my own bread and become a better baker.
There is something quite magical that happens when flour is measured, when water or butter or eggs are mixed, when wild yeasts activate, when sugars sweeten. All sorts of lovely creations – sweet and savoury – can be created. Breads for certain, but pastries, cakes, cookies, biscuits and scones.
Last month we celebrated the arrival of Muriel, daughter of Priscilla, the sourdough starter sent to me by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. (Anyone spot the Aussie ABBA connection?) Amazingly, the dry starter took less than a week to travel from Australia to the UK! I love the stamps. The starter was activated and bread made – although before Celia posted her step-by-step guide on making sourdough! The starter produced amazing bubbles and the bread looked and smelled so good that I forgot to take a photo before cutting off the end and slathering on some home made strawberry jam.
To aid me in keeping to this resolution were a few new cookbooks under the Christmas tree to add to my collection: Crust, Pastry, and Patisserie Maison. They are all by the fabulous Richard Bertinet, who has attained pop-star status in my kitchen. The new books are now housed on the kitchen shelves next to his other book, Dough. I now feel supremely confident in tackling all sorts of baking – from yeast and sourdough bread making to pastry to cakes and confections.
In fact, his shortcrust pastry method described in Pastry has transformed my pastry into lovely buttery, flaky crusts. I’ve even went so far as to create my own puff pastry! No more store-bought packets. The secret is in handling the butter – so satisfying to beat the block of cold butter between sheets of greaseproof paper. But, for more of the technique, you have to read the book – no spoilers here!
Resolution: continue to adhere to the economical concept of les delicieux petites restes, making creative use of leftovers and seeing that nothing is wasted.
Dealing with the Christmas turkey has certainly set me on the right track. There was the usual post-holiday turkey curry, turkey enchiladas, turkey and ham pie (topped with some of that homemade puff pastry), and turkey croquettes. Also lots leftover for turkey sandwiches! Yes, we roast an enormous bird, just able to fit into the largest oven.
Even the carcass was boiled to produce litres of rich turkey stock resulting in two meals of soup. The first was a spicy harrisa chickpea and tomato turkey soup and the other a hot and sour turkey-vegetable soup packed with hot chili peppers, Chinese leaf, snap peas, carrots, spring onions and mushrooms. There are still bits and bobs of turkey meat, picked off the bones then packed and frozen, for making little phyllo packets of Moroccan inspired turkey bastilla at some point in the near future.
With half a jar of cranberry mincemeat left after all those mince pies made earlier, I dolloped a bit into my flapjack mixture, giving them a nice fruity-spicy flavour. There’s even some left over for a strudel, enhancing them with some homemade puff pastry now that I know how to make it! Or, I’ve been toying with the idea of mincemeat scones. Now the only thing left is some ham – split pea soup for sure. And, since ham has an affinity with beans, I can make a dent in my large supply of a variety of dried legumes in the pantry. I love how these recipes are economically drawing on ingredients I have to hand.
Resolution: attempt to take better images for the blog as well as general photography.
Hmm…not sure how this might happen, but I’m willing to give it a shot (if you will excuse the pun!). There are so many wonderful role models among my blogging friends who produce lovely professional looking photos of their food creations or captivating images of places they visit. And though I am technologically minded for the most part, I am all thumbs when it comes to cameras. I have usually relied on the inbuilt camera of my iPad – and “enhancing” (or do I really mean “fixing”?) with Photoshop. HOWEVER, my lovely husband has handed down to me his old digital Canon after my Christmas gift to him of an improved version with multiple lenses – very whiz bang with enough features to keep any gadget-lover happy. I can see that a careful scrutiny of the manual + a lot of trial and error is in store for me in the coming months. No doubt future posts will contain some (hopefully) improved photographic efforts! Wish me luck!!!
Meanwhile, we celebrated the New Year with Vasilopita – the Greek bread for Saint Basil (Greek Ayios Vasileios) whose saint’s day is January 1st. And, also the smashed pomegranate on the doorstep, but you can read about these particular customs in my last January IMK post – In My Pomegranate Kitchen.
Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous New Year!